The China Post
By Joseph Yeh–The last-minute change in President Ma Ying-jeou’s Africa state visit itinerary was purely a result of a “conflict of schedules,” and does not indicate any trouble with bilateral ties with Sao Tome and Principe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday.
“The schedule has been changed because President Manuel Pinto da Costa of Sao Tome and Principe will not be able to host Ma as Pinto da Costa will be overseas at the time,” MOFA spokesman James Chang told reporters yesterday.
The MOFA has been coordinating with the West African island’s government over the past weeks in order to find a schedule that is mutually agreeable but could not get a satisfactory result. The African ally has expressed regret over not being able to meet Taiwan’s delegation, and had suggested that Ma delay his visit until April 30, Chang said.
Ma was originally scheduled to visit the nation as part of a 12-day trip that will take him to three other diplomatic allies in Africa, including Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Swaziland, scheduled for next month.
However, the MOFA on Monday night announced that Sao Tome and Principe will dropped from Ma’s Africa itinerary The itinerary alteration drew speculation that there may be trouble in the official ties between the two countries given the close relations between President Manuel Pinto da Costa and Beijing. Pinto da Costa used to served as the first president for the African country from 1975 to 1991 during which his government maintained diplomatic ties with China.
In 1975 and 1983, Pinto da Costa twice visited China. He was again elected as president in August 2011. Asked to comment, Hsu Mien-sheng (徐勉生), director-general of MOFA’s Department of African Affairs, reaffirmed that there is no problem with the bilateral diplomatic ties. Hsu said that Pinto da Costa has connections with Taiwan since the Taiwanese government established official ties with Sao Tome after he stepped down from top government post in 1997. But the Santomean leader acknowledged the sound bilateral exchanges after he took office last year and said he appreciates Taiwan’s assistance to his country on various fronts, assuring to continue mutual ties.